Biography of John I. Thomas
Cambria County, PA Biographies

John Ira Thomas, state mine inspector for the Thirteenth Bituminous District, is well and favorably known in Johnstown. He was born Jan. 25, 1882, at Brisbin, Clearfield County, Pa., and is a son of David H. and Rachel A. (Morris) Thomas.

David H. Thomas, the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Wales and came to this country at the age of four years, settling with his parents in the newly opened Moshannon coal district in the vicinity of Houtzdale, Pa. Following family traditions, he early took up the trade of mining and worked in some of the first opened mines of that region. As a young man he traveled extensively through the Western and Southern states, returning home in 1881, when he married and applied himself to the study of the new science of mining, with the result that he qualified at the first examination for mine foreman held in this state (1885), and in 1889 he passed the examination for mine inspector and was appointed inspector of the Eighth Bituminous District by Governor Pattison in 1891, which position he held until his death in 1895, at the age of 37 years.

Rachel A. Thomas, the mother, was born in Scranton, Pa., and was the daughter of Rev. John J. Morris, who was widely known throughout Central Pennsylvania as one of the pioneer Welsh Baptist ministers. Mrs. Thomas maintains her residence in Philipsburg, Pa., and is very active in church, temperance and allied work. One daughter, Miss Lula, is at home ; another, Miss Hilda, is an instructor in the Wilkinsburg schools; and a son, Morris, is employed at Johnstown and makes his residence there.

John Ira Thomas received his education in the public schools of Philipsburg, Pa., and from private tutors. He began his mining career as a member of the engineering corps of the Cambria Steel Company in 1899. After four years' service, at which time he held the position of assistant engineer, he resigned to seek broader fields. For the next eight years he was engaged in the engineering and executive end of the mining industry for various coal companies, operating throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and the Southwest. in 1910 he departed for Northwest Canada, where he was engaged for over two years as mining engineer in charge of prospecting and developing work in the Canadian Rockies for a foreign syndicate. Returning East, he was retained by the county com missioners of Cambria County as consulting engineer to establish an equitable system of assessment for the coal lands of the county. This method, put into effect in 1913, has withstood all attacks and has been sustained by the courts, and is the system successfully used by Cambria County since that time. A few years later Mr. Thomas was engaged by Auditor General Snyder as consulting engineer to place a value for taxation purposes on the bituminous coal lands owned by corporations in this state. This work was also successfully accomplished, both the corporations and the commonwealth accepting the values placed by Mr. Thomas without recourse to the courts. Mr. Thomas' work as mining engineer necessitated considerable traveling. He is familiar with the fields of the different coal producing states and those of the neighboring countries. Desiring to settle down in one community, he took the examination for state mine inspector in 1917, was successful, and shortly afterward was appointed inspector of the Fourth District (Dubois, Pa.) by Governor Brumbaugh. in 1920 Mr. Thomas was detailed by the chief of the Department of Mines to redistrict the bituminous inspection districts. With this work completed, Mr. Thomas found himself back in his old stamping grounds as inspector of the Thirteenth District, with headquarters at Johnstown, Pa.

Mr. Thomas is a member of the American Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the Coal Mining institute of America, the Mine Inspectors' Institute of America, and the Bituminous Mine Inspectors' Advisory Association of Pennsylvania, of which last named society he is president. He is an Elk and a Mason. In politics he is a staunch Republican and has been delegate to numerous county and state conventions. During 1909 and 1910 he was a member of the state committee from Cambria County. Mr. Thomas is a bachelor and maintains a residence at Philipsburg, Pa., where his mother resides. His Johnstown residence is at the local Y. M. C. A.

History of Cambria County, Pennsylvania
By: John E. Gable
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis, 1926

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